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Michael & Andrew Cotton
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Nothing is Written…………..

DNA I believe……….
  The trip to Dubai would have been a wonderful experience had I not managed to
spill an entire cup of very hot coffee all over my lap on the way out to the desert,
burning my belly before I had even landed. Business class on Emirates is a
different world to cattle class on Ryanair, the low-cost carrier in which leg-room is
cut to the quick and which has plans in the future to make passengers pay to stow
luggage in the hold.

  My gigantic seat completely threw me and I blame it entirely for mis-judging the
trajectory of the coffee. It was dark, so no one really noticed and the bloke I was
sitting next to, who was part of the company, which designed the fire escapes in
the new facility’s grandstand, quietly ignored me as I shoved napkins under my
shirt in a bid to save my skin.

  I had a similar experience on Virgin once on the way to Sebring. Virgin
accidentally upgraded me and, as I turned around to say to Martyn and Teresa
Pass what a fantastic experience flying Premium Economy was, I sent a glass of
orange juice flying over a girl who was unfortunate enough to sit next to me.
Thankfully, she had been upgraded for the first time too, and was fine about her
shower at the start of a nine-hour flight.

  Customs and immigration in Dubai, with coffee stains all over my jeans, brought
out the odd smile, and my wife confirmed that the family had nick-named me

It's only a matter of going……….
  I was on my way to the new facility in the desert, spotted a few camels and the
world’s only seven star hotel on the way, before I arrived at my abode.

  There, we were very well looked after indeed by Chris Willows, Peter Walker, and
BMW. Andy Priaulx won the European Touring Car title in the most spectacular
fashion, finishing level on points with Dirk Muller who appeared on Eurosport on
Sunday morning with the immortal line: “I am pissed off.” Dirk had been got at by a
privateer Alfa which effectively put Priaulx in with a shout for the second of the two
races, but the German still managed to get from plum last on the grid up to fifth
and one more place would have been enough for him to take the title. Even Jorg
must have been impressed. He was interviewed on the grid and asked if he
would help Dirk. “He has to help himself first,” said the Schnitzer driver.

  The ETCC race was full of drama and excitement, the press room corps was on
its feet screaming at the television screens as it all unfolded, and Brooks was
delighted with his own performance, teaching some members of the royal family
some vagaries of the English language from his perch in the stands next to the
Royal Box as we all got impartially involved.

  It was a wonderful weekend, the facilities of the new track were better than some
Italian circuits that host Grand Prix events, and the staff went to great lengths to
ensure the needs of the press and teams were met. The food in hospitality was of
the finest standard, the pits were big enough for all teams and the atmosphere
during the racing was superb, with the unbiased spectators cheering every
change of lead and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Stephane Ratel said we
would enjoy ourselves, and he was right.

Full of Eastern Promise
  The calendars have just been announced for next year, and Ratel has grown
even more ambitious. The racing in October, November and December includes
rounds in China, Japan, Bahrain and Dubai which is going to stretch the budgets
of many a smaller team even with the help offered by the SRO. Ratel has offered a
European cup to those who could not afford to do the fly-aways, but he has cut the
European schedule to just seven, including Istanbul on September 18.

  The FIA GT Championship has a total of 11 races with more foreign rounds than
the newly-promoted World Touring Car Championship. That has scheduled a
round in Mexico just one week after the Le Mans 24-hours, not a big deal for the
teams, none of whom are interested in sports car racing, but a nightmare for
those who have grown quite close to the wham-bam racing that has provided the
perfect foil to the three-hour endurance events.

Follow The Yellow Brick Road
It was an expensive weekend for those who were paying, including the tyre
companies who were offered air-conditioned offices for a premium. Dunlop
refused the kind offer, and made do with a shed in the back of the paddock, big
fans and a cool box full of drink. They had paid for themselves to get out there, and
will do so again in Zhuhai, but there has been a big ruction over their treatment.
Teams were given tickets for a certain number of members and 1000kg of freight,
the tyre companies received nothing and none were happy.

A New Standard of Standardness
  Maserati has had its MC12 homologated, based on its results of the past three
races which include podium positions at each round it has contested, and a
victory at Oschersleben. This despite a smaller rear wing than anyone else in the
field, and a 60kg ballast added to any new car entering the championship. The
ride height has also been raised to limit its performance but the FIA’s acceptance
of the car has now confirmed the car as the new benchmark for the series.

  Whether or not people like it, or approve of it, the car is now fully legal and the
others, with their Ferrari 550s, 575s, Aston Martins and Saleens must all set their
goal to beat it. Maserati’s goal now is to sell cars to customers, and they are lining
up to take them, and to race a factory team at Le Mans.

  Given the performance of the car, it will be a great race between the blue cars,
Corvette and Ferrari. No one would suggest that the MC12s could beat the Audi
R8 in a straight fight, but it will be interesting to see public reaction when they line-
up alongside each other at scrutineering in the Place de Jacobins next June.

The Revolution will not be Televised….
 Frederic Dor still fears the Maserati will destroy the GT Championship but instead
of moaning about it, has come up with a solution, a different criteria with which to
judge the new breed of cars. If the manufacturer wants to promote itself, like Audi,
it should go prototype racing. If it wants to sell a car, such as the Aston Martin DB9
and the Corvette C6, it should go GTS. Dor firmly believes Maserati, with its
production run of 50 cars, is out to promote itself and not to promote the MC12
and should therefore take on a restricted Audi with its unrestricted MC12.

 It is a simple theory, one that should not upset Maserati but could promote
healthy discussion within the paddock. Dor’s Ferrari 550 Maranellos moved the
goalposts from Chrysler Vipers which cost approximately half the cash, and the
Lamborghini which cost the same but which has proved so unpopular with Dick
Barbour that he dropped the ALMS programme. Interestingly in Europe, the drivers
are full of praise for the car, given its development potential rather than its outright
performance though the DAMS team has threatened to drop it if a proper
development programme is not undertaken over the winter.

  Personally, I don’t doubt that the MC12 has taken endurance racing into an
entirely new area from the one occupied for the past five years. It is just a question
of who can compete with it in GTS or LMP1, how much doing so will cost, and who
has the money to do so?

Andrew Cotton
October 2004

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